by Janet Stephenson
It took some proverbial teeth pulling, but Dr. Hayek, who is Deputy Superintendent, Business Services, for Conejo Valley Unified School District, finally admitted that some of the guessing was wrong. Conejo Schools Foundation, for instance, was left off the chart of top twenty users. This raised a few eyebrows, since Conejo Schools Foundation is a booster organization that runs several fundraising programs at Conejo Valley Unified School District sites, the most profitable being the Get Ahead fundraising program that ran summer school courses daily in June and July of 2019, and also benefits from year round free office space, utilities, and phone service inside the Conejo Valley Unified School District building. Questions as to why Conejo Schools Foundation, an obvious top user of Conejo Valley Unified School District facilities, was not on the list, were left ignored and unanswered. How then, could there be a productive discussion about facilities usage when one of the top users of facilities is left out of the discussion, and information about their direct cost to the district removed?
What adds to the peculiar nature of leaving Conejo Schools Foundation out of the top twenty facility users, is who the people were who made the decision to use only numbers for the organizations which misled the public to begin with, causing them to believe that Conejo Schools Foundation was included. It is telling that Conejo Valley Unified School District school board president, Betsy Connolly, and Assistant Superintendent, Victor Hayek, who are also Conejo Schools Foundation board members, were the ones to make the call.
When one looks at how the direct costs are calculated for usage with the other organizations, the public deserves to know how much Conejo Schools Foundation is compensating Conejo Valley Unified School District for facility usage and how much the district is taking a hit on direct costs. We know from their memorandums of understanding with the district that they pay $50 per student in the Get Ahead fundraiser (which CSF turns around and charges $300-$600 per course), and that for this low fee, they receive high school facilities, and the usage of textbooks, learning resources, hardware, software, staff, equipment, as well as background checks for their teachers and CVUSD counseling services to recommend scholarships, as well as free office space and utilities in the Conejo Valley Unified School District building.
Could it be that the costs of the partnership between Conejo Valley Unified School District and Conejo Schools Foundation, a booster organization, which charges district students summer school fees, possibly in violation of AB 1575, is something they want to keep secret? By failing to list Conejo Schools Foundation in the top twenty facility users, with the direct costs revealed to the public, the district also fails to be transparent as to how much Conejo Schools Foundation is costing the district.
The memorandums of understanding between Conejo Valley Unified School District and Conejo Schools Foundation already show that the foundation is receiving facilities usage, textbooks, learning resources, hardware, software, staff, and equipment at district sites, as well as a free office and utilities. How much is the free office and utilities costing the district? And how much is the district paying in direct costs for the Get Ahead fundraiser through facilities use in the summer?
Maybe the minimal fees paid by the partnership outweigh the costs to the district. That would be something that taxpayers would like to know, since their tax dollars, as well as state and federal funding, go into the district that is paying the direct costs. However, how can we evaluate that without the actual costs being presented? For whatever reason, Conejo Valley Unified School District board president, Betsy Connolly, and Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Victor Hayek, who are also board members of Conejo Schools Foundation, decided not to name the top twenty facility users, so that there could be a useful conversation about the pros and cons of some organizations receiving a better discount than others, and Dr. Hayek chose to leave Conejo Schools Foundation off the list. I can’t speak to their motives, but it looks like, for them, the public just does not need to know how much Conejo Schools Foundation is directly costing the district. Don’t ask, move along, there’s nothing to see here.
But wait…there’s more.
The presentation also brought up questions regarding the fees charged to two nameless organizations, known only as organizations #5 and #9. With both of these organizations, they were being charged more than the direct costs to the district. This seemed to go against California Education Code 38134(b) which states that “a governing board of a school district may charge an amount not to exceed its direct costs for use of its school facilities or grounds.”
When Trustee Everett asked questions about what appeared to be excessive fees, Dr. Hayek could not provide answers. He also couldn’t explain why some organizations paid so little toward direct costs to the district, with some organizations paying less than 12%. Supposedly, a committee is being formed to go over the fees being charged for a future fee schedule, but it is surprising that there were no ready answers available as to what was currently being charged or why the amounts were all over the board, with some organizations being charged more than the law allows, and others being charged little to nothing for usage.
A quick analysis of what little was presented shows that those that are charged less than 12% of direct costs (seven of the numbered organizations) were costing the district the most to the tune of $1,549,693 of direct costs paid by the district. Maybe the direct cost calculation is inaccurate to begin with and over values the direct costs, or maybe there are good charitable reasons for some of those deep discounts, but without being able to know what organizations the numbers represent, the presentation was useless, except to show that the district has no control over costs.
Maybe it’s not that bad, but it would appear that in matters related to facility usage, the district is out of control, charging more than the law allows in some cases, giving others free usage in other cases, and refusing transparency in all cases. And for now, those in charge are either unable or unwilling to explain the discrepancies or why Conejo Schools Foundation, an obvious top twenty user of district facilities, has been left out of the discussion. Without knowing who the numbered organizations were and without the same information about Conejo Schools Foundation, the presentation by Dr. Hayek on October 15 was a waste of time, far from productive, and left the public with more questions than answers.
Janet Stephenson is a resident of Thousand Oaks
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal
Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE
Should we contact the above agencies for guidance and assistance?
Why is the superintendent forcing the taxpayers to foot the bill for an organization that two school board members are involved with? This sounds corrupt. It also sounds like only certain organizations get special deals with the district. Why is that allowed?
The test scores in our district are terrible and yet rather than using our taxpayer dollars improving the education of our children, we are giving freebees and favors to an organization that board members are profiting from. Why is the superintendent refusing transparency regarding Conejo Schools Foundation? Why do some organizations get sweet heart deals while others are being overcharged? This sounds like a complete mess and clearly district finances are being mishandled.
CVUSD is mismanaged, completely mismanaged, 5 school board members have no clue how to manage, control, justify budgets in this district, have no knowledge, experience, expertise in managing anything. We taxpayers spend 240M a year, on our of control salaries, pensions and best health care money can buy for our Royalty. Ave teacher salary is 95K a year, 16.641K for health care, 16K for pensions. This does not include 5K for taxes that we pay 133K per 850 teachers. We spent 48M on benefits, multi million dollar life time pensions for each employee. Look at the salaries for Administration, out of this world, highest in the nation. I have a list of employees and salaries, including benefits, starting at 305K a year. We spend millions of Substitutes, 5M in outside housekeepers, inside custodians, janitors all cleaning schools. They all make 40-80K a year. We have 2 Assist Superintendents making 225K a year, High School principal 200K, Directors 195K, HIgh School teacher 175K, Elementary Principal 172K, Coordinators 170K, Middle School Teacher 160K. No one is monitoring, controlling, justifying taxpayers expenditures in this district, mismanagement of out of control costs, including bond funds that are mismanaged, employees charging to bond funds. They lose 320 students a year, no one cares. They spend millions on software that does not help students learn, no one on the Board cares. They steal money out of classroom for books and supplies to give to higher salaries, pensions and health care, no one cares. No one in this district is accountable, curriculum is a disgrace, teachers dont discipline, they indoctrinate children in secular humanist cult garbage. Over 50% of students cant pass ELA and Math Standards. Minorities score in the 20-30% on test results, get passed to the next grade, no one cares. CVUSD is mismanaged, overpaid, out of control, the Board defends Unions, does not care about education of children, parents don’t care. Solution, throw more tax dollars in schools, pay off employees, let the children continue to suffer to lack of an appropriate education. CVUSD is a complete disaster and disgrace in our communities, keep voting in garage to incompetent boards who mismanage budgets and education of your children, all get paid off in salaries and free health care cost for life. Indoctrination>education, they will start to care when parents start to care. Anyone want salaries, contact me, will show you who makes what in this district. Infrastructure money 300M bonds all went to higher salaries, pensions and health care, you have been scammed by the School Board.
From my recent exposure to the CVUSD Board meetings, it is clear, there is no one who understands how to make, keep, or balance a budget. It is rediculous to think that the person in charge of presenting this information would not have at least an educated response to specific question about millions of dollars being spent.
When I give my son $10 to buy a $5 item and he returns with no change, do I just chalk that up to chance? No, I ask where the change is and expect an educated response. So Dr. Connolly, Dr. Hayek, where is the change?
Wow! Thanks for making this corruption so much clearer! It sounded fishy to begin with but now I have a better idea of how bad it really is!
Thank you for clearly explaining this mess. I’ve been very confused and concerned about this matter and this was very helpful.